This is page numbers 1 - 28 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was --.

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Committee Report 151-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Home Insurance Benefit Allowance
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 16

Some Hon Members

Question.

Committee Report 151-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Home Insurance Benefit Allowance
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 16

The Chair Rocky Simpson

Question's been called. All those in favour? Opposed? Abstentions? Motion carried.

---Carried

Member for Kam Lake.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

June 4th, 2021

Page 16

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I move that this committee recommends that the Government of the Northwest Territories provide a response to the recommendations contained in this report within 120 days. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 16

The Chair Rocky Simpson

Thank you, Member. The motion is in order. To the motion?

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 16

Some Hon Members

Question.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 16

The Chair Rocky Simpson

Question's been called. All those in favour? Opposed? Abstentions? Motion carried.

---Carried

Thank you, committee. Do you agree that you have concluded consideration of Committee Report 16-19(2) Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs For NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords?

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 16

Some Hon Members

Agreed.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 16

The Chair Rocky Simpson

Thank you, committee. We have concluded our consideration of Committee Report 16-19(2) Standing Committee on Social Development on housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords. Thank you.

Committee, we have agreed to consider Minister's Statement 161-19(2) Emerging Stronger: COVID-19 Social Economic Recovery Plan, and Tabled Document 413-19(2) Emerging Stronger: Planning the NWT Social and Economic Recovery Together. I will now open the floor to general comments on Minister's Statement 161-19(2) and Tabled Document 413-19(2).

Member for Frame Lake.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 17

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Mr. Chair. I guess I'd like to start by thanking Cabinet for the work that they did on Emerging Stronger and I will acknowledge that they did consult regular MLAs, and I still think that it needs a lot more work.

The first point that I really want to make is that nowhere in the document or in the Premier's statement on the document, and I haven't done a real detailed look on the Executive website, but it's not clear how anybody's is to actually submit comments on it, or whether -- if there's going to be some place where comments might get compiled, whether the document is actually going to get revised in some way. So there's a whole communications consultation component that's totally missing. And I think the Premier said that they are interested in getting comments but there's no actual way to do that. And I've actually had one Yellowknife resident already point this out and make a complaint to me about this, so I'm sure there's others that feel the same way.

Some general comments as well, Mr. Chair, about the approach. It really is an incremental approach that really tries to tie economic renewal/recovery to the mandate, and I just think that we should be looking at something much more bold, fundamental changes. Here's an opportunity to help rebuild an economy to make it more sustainable and just. And what I see here, basically, Mr. Chair, is more of the same.

I would like to see broadband-made strategic infrastructure priority over the other big projects that this government continues to advocate and push for. I think the shortcomings with our broadband network were really shown during the pandemic, and that should become the flagship infrastructure project that this government wishes to get resolved.

I will acknowledge that we did make some progress, actually, with our vulnerable populations in Yellowknife and Hay River, Fort Simpson, even in Inuvik. But I'm worried about sustaining those efforts, and I -- you know, even here in Yellowknife, I understand that the day shelters closed, that some other accommodation may not be available for vulnerable populations into the long-term future, so I want to see that support continue.

There's really nothing in the document about fiscal sustainability. There's the government renewal initiative discussed. I -- I'm not opposed to that. I think that there might be some useful changes that come out of it, but there's nothing on the revenue side. As I've said many times in this House, I would have expected to see something in this document about tax fairness and a new fiscal relationship with Ottawa. That's not in the document whatsoever.

We do need to build a more resilient self-reliant economy, acknowledge the climate emergency. There's discussion in here about a greater more sustainable economy, but no specifics. And there is some effort to support tourism. There's several portions of the document that do discuss tourism, but I think we have some tremendous opportunities with regard to remediation economy. The document, though, was very tentative in this regard, and we've yet to actually secure any federal investment in this area and that's because Cabinet continues to pitch the remediation economy piece or work on accelerating remediation work on contaminated sites here. The Cabinet continues to pitch this as some kind of industry bailout, and if I was the federal government I wouldn't invest in it either.

What you need to do is start to talk about direct partnerships with Indigenous governments, like the recent Great Bear Lake Remediation Governance Agreement, and empower Indigenous governments to go off and do some of this direct partnership work themselves with the federal government. That's not mentioned in here either, Mr. Chair.

One of the most troubling parts that I find in this document is there's -- the only mention of the arts and culture in here is a throwaway that the strategy is forthcoming. I wish that we could somehow capture some of the enthusiasm from our ITI minister earlier in this day and put that into this document. It's nowhere to be found, Mr. Chair. That's the kind of enthusiasm that I'd expected to see in here in terms of building a more sustainable economy and diversifying our economy.

Mr. Chair, when I looked at the economic diversification section of the document, very -- most of the items that are listed there are about promoting mining. Mining's already a central part of our economy. I just fail to see how promoting more mining is going to diversify our economy. So I think that section really needs to be revised. If you want to have a section that talks about how you support mining, put it in a section talking about mining, but mining is not necessarily about diversifying our economy. Forestry could and should be part of that, with the price of lumber increasing exponentially. We do have some lumber mills that have been set up here and work periodically. Here's an opportunity to become more self-sufficient when it comes to wood that's used in building homes and renovations, energy conservation, retrofits on homes. Let's see something more in here about forestry potential. And that would help to diversify our economy.

There is, at the end, an appendix that starts to talk about timelines, a few specific actions, but, again, there's no funding identified in this document, Mr. Chair, and I think that's a real problem.

The other I think shortcoming in this document is that there's very little in here that really addresses the mental health crisis that's arisen during the pandemic, and I don't really sense any systemic approach to dealing with that in this document. And nothing on food security, Mr. Chair. Thank goodness we passed this motion earlier today, but virtually no mention whatsoever of food security in the document.

There is some reporting to be done in the document -- or through the document but it's not clear exactly what's going to be reported. Some key indicators, but nothing really about how the analysis is going to be undertaken on those key indicators, and more importantly, how that leads into a response or action by our government. So that needs to be improved as well.

I think that's my comments, Mr. Chair. But, once again, I would encourage our Cabinet colleagues to find a way to truly encourage public input to this document and set up a website, an email address, whatever, so that people can actually submit comments and that you can respond to them in a systemic and transparent fashion. Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 17

The Chair Rocky Simpson

Thank you, Member. Any further comment? Member for YK North.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 17

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Here's what CBC published in an analysis piece about this plan: Most of the plan is firmly focused on the government's own operations. For an economic recovery plan, it includes remarkably little discussion of the future of the economy.

This is what the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce had to say about the plan: The inclusion of vague action items like "seek to assist" the tourism, aviation, construction, hospitality and mining sectors to position for survival and eventual rebound fails to inspire confidence in our current government's ability to support the economy recovery for Yellowknife business community. The government has an obligation to do more than "seek" to support these critical industries. We need an actual plan with budgets and timelines.

Mr. Speaker, I think this plan is a symptom of some systemic problems that I know all of this House are frustrated with. The government's communication has become so incredibly risk adverse that we can't even commit to assisting these industries. We have "to seek" to assist them. And there seems to be a fear of, you know, putting out a plan with clear targets and clear measurables and then not meeting them, as if that's the worst thing in the world. But I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that -- or Mr. Chair, that putting out a plan that basically says nothing, it just causes far more frustration.

And I think we're hamstrung by our own processes here. This week, we spent $5,750,000 to support the tourism industry. That was a great news story. I'm happy to see that we did that. I don't understand why that number was not the first thing in this plan. There is no budgetary commitments in this plan. I know the reason for that is because we can't put firm budgetary commitments and plans that haven't gone through the financial management board and made it through this House for fear that at some point, the money may not actually go through the multiple levels of approval. But, Mr. Speaker, the people of NWT wanted more. The Members wanted more. I encourage this Cabinet to find a way to put budgetary commitments in new action plans. I don't know how you have to do that. But I'm frustrated by the continuation of plans and strategies that don't have budgetary commitments in them. And often the budgetary commitments come after but already, we've lost a bunch of political capital in putting out a plan without those firm commitments.

Mr. Speaker, there's a few other things I would have liked to see in the plan. The plan is still talking about the potential of an Indigenous procurement policy. I believe that ship has sailed, and we could have committed to an Indigenous procurement policy and set out what that was. I prefer a benchmark for how much money will go to Indigenous-owned businesses and dev corps.

I've heard the minister of ITI talk about this. I believe we're on our way but I just -- I don't see how we didn't use this plan to get a good news story of what some of the specifics were going to be there.

Mr. Speaker -- or Mr. Chair, I could go through many other areas, and I'll try and be brief. We have a cap on a -- a net metering cap on renewable energy in this territory. More and more of our communities are reaching their 20 percent threshold on renewable energy, and we literally will not allow them to use free federal government money to build more renewable energy. We need to get rid of the net metering cap if we are going to be serious about a green, resilient, and productive economy going forward.

Mr. Speaker, the Yukon has a plan to have 4800 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. We don't -- despite owning almost a thousand vehicles, we don't have one single electric vehicle. I just -- make a symbolic gesture on this area.

Mr. Speaker, I think it would be remiss for the plan not to talk about mining, and I know we're working on this area but we need a plan to settle land claims or to get -- move forward on this. Right now, some of the best mining land in the territory is stuck in land withdrawals with no path to settle claims and no path to, you know, to commit to land use planning that builds consent in to how that land will be going -- move forward. We seem to be in the worst -- worst of both worlds in this area. And I can tell you that no one is happy. The industry's not happy. Indigenous governments aren't happen that we continue to not make progress at the tables and I just -- I feel hesitant to even talk about land withdrawals because it has become just so convoluted to actually figure out a path forward where we are going to give the land back and, you know, get consent built into our resource projects to be a world leader in this area.

Mr. Speaker, I -- Mr. Chair, I know that all of these things cost money and economic plans are costly, but I think there's a few things we probably could have done that were, you know -- didn't cost us anything.

On the nonprofit sector, one of their number one complaints, as Cabinet well knows, is the year-to-year scrambling for funding from multiple funding pools. I think in the last previously for the whole-of-government approach to look how we're funding our non-profits, bundle it up and give them some multiyear funding to get out of COVID-19.

Mr. Speaker -- or Mr. Chair, many things in this plan are -- they're hindered by the same old problems. Getting many things done in this territory is like pulling teeth and, you know, no one is ever happy with whatever you do. But there will always be naysayers, and we can't aim to make everyone happy, but this really looks like a plan that was designed by committee, and I think it has just increased frustration. And I didn't want to see that, Mr. Speaker -- or Mr. Chair. I keep calling you Mr. Speaker, apologies.

Yeah, I think this session we've done some good work. I think there was more money passed, you know, $750,000 for the poverty fund, but there's something disconnected between being able to put budgetary figures and future commitments, policy change commitments into plans. I think departments are so caught up in a multilevel process that if there's a chance that we're not actually going to finish a project, we just can't confirm it, but we're not doing ourselves any favors.

Yeah, I will echo my member -- my colleague's comments that there's no place for the public to submit their views as where we're going to go with the NWT future economy. I think I hear great ideas every day from my constituents and I know they are frustrated by a lot of government processes, and our government is the biggest barrier in many cases to getting things done. And I just believe we are moving at a glacial pace and it does not reflect the emergency we're in.

I know committee is planning a public briefing on this, and I'm sure I will have further questions but I think there's much work to do to really address the systemic problem of, you know, not being able to commit to things and not being able to take a risk. And, you know, if we fail, then that's fine. At least explain what the barrier was. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 18

The Chair Rocky Simpson

Thank you, Member. Any further comment? Member for Thebacha.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 18

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

I just want to make one short comment. You know, it's easy to listen and it's easy to criticize and sometimes I do it myself, you know, but a balanced approach to development and to social programs is reflected in this plan. I don't agree with everything in the plan. But, you know, from a business point of view and being in business for 50 years and strong -- with strong business background, I feel that a lot of things that are in here are good, not all of it is bad. The mineral -- the mineral part of our economy is extremely important. The hydro is extremely important. Mini hydros just wouldn't do it and, you know, I just -- if we're going to move ahead, and I said that in several statements throughout this Assembly, and we have to look overall of what's best for the whole economy. Some of the smaller things, yes, those are good for the communities and community-based, but we still have to have economic growth in the larger economy and we -- you know, at one point in the last ten years that we had it, and because of different things that happened within that economy, including the pandemic and everything else, we have to have all these larger -- the larger economic opportunities in order for us to sustain what we want in the social -- in the social envelope. And everybody knows that. It's not science that we don't all know. And I just want to make sure that -- that we always create a balance, because that's the only way our people will move forward. That's the only way we're going to develop jobs to make sure that our people put food on the table. That's all they want. Most ordinary people, that's all they want. And with that, thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 18

The Chair Rocky Simpson

Thank you, Member. Member for Kam Lake.

Committee Report 152-19(2): Committee Report 16-19(2): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Housing Phase One: Needs for NWT Homeowners and Private Landlords - Government Response to Recommendations
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 18

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you for the opportunity to speak to this document.

After a year, the NWT was expecting a gold plan to guide the NWT through economic recovery. The NWT expected a transformative document that would detail specific actions with creditable budget lines and timelines. Without these, it makes it difficult for our side of the House to hold the other side of the House accountable. Identifying broadly what sectors the government wanted to focus isn't enough. People want to know how the government is going to create an impact. And for example, what long-standing policy barriers the GNWT is prepared to change or let go of to create this transformational change for the people of the Northwest Territories.

Committee just read into the House the recommendations for the housing report. A lot of what was contained in there has been identified by previous assemblies, previous nongovernment organizations, and so it -- really it comes down to what the government is prepared to listen to and what they're prepared to change in order to ultimately create change for the people of the Northwest Territories.

Specific to housing, Mr. Chair, housing was identified in the beginning of the pandemic as one of our biggest challenges in the Northwest Territories. Many Northerners live in overcrowded houses where communicable disease spreads quickly. The GNWT needs to quickly identify -- sorry, the GNWT also needed to quickly identify solutions for the -- to house the homeless. It did those things, and now they seem to be slipping away. We heard of challenges faced by the Arnica Inn earlier this week from MLA Johnson just here in the House. This government also has yet to produce the homelessness strategy that was committed to in the 18th Assembly. Housing doesn't only set Northerners up to participate in the economy, Mr. Chair, it also is an economy.

As in regards to health care, during the pandemic we heard time and again how important resident health care workers were to the success of our territory, not only during the pandemic but also outside of a pandemic. We've heard reference in this House to policies that better support locum health care workers over resident health care workers. And we need to ensure that these are changed but they are not identified in the document. This document also does not address the specific recommendations from the virtual care team to expand virtual care in the Northwest Territories.

In regards to procurement, Mr. Chair, economic recovery depends on our ability to get money for projects out the door, for businesses to be paid promptly, and to ensure dollars are getting to -- getting Northerners to work. We just passed the largest capital plan in the history of the NWT with $450 million. But this economic recovery plan does not speak to how the GNWT is going to ensure the bulk of capital spending stays in the North, and this, we've heard time and time and again, is key to our economic success here in the Northwest Territories.

Unfortunately, with wording like accelerate the review of the GNWT procurement policies or consider an Indigenous procurement policy, there's no tangible commitment made within this document.

In terms of remediation, Mr. Chair, that section has left me with far more answers than questions. Questions like what does reclamation or remediation economy actually look like in the Northwest Territories and what is the potential economic value compared to other economic drivers that are potentials for us in the Northwest Territories? How does the GNWT intend to work with the federal government to ensure remediation contracts not only go to northern companies but also local companies, especially when our remediation efforts are also so strongly tied to reconciliation. How specifically does the GNWT plan to support remediation and skill development within northern businesses and communities to capitalize on the reclamation economy.

Broadband infrastructure, as my colleagues have also referenced, internet is not just about entertainment. This pandemic has shown us that internet is very much about the economy. It's very much about education. The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce estimated that one-day outage results in a GDP loss to the territory of $4.75 million. But the problem is not only redundancy. It is equitable access to health information during a pandemic and also equitable access to education. The GNWT needs a cost plan with deliverables to get internet into all NWT households, including public housing.

Work force development. The GNWT was right to point out the difficulty with bringing in skilled workers. Many businesses still rely on out-of-territory workers as they simply cannot find the labour force to hire locally. What isn't addressed here is the inconsistencies businesses are having with exemptions from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer. The GNWT needs to commit to standardized transparent exemptions so northern businesses can keep their local workers employed as well and continue to bid on local northern projects with confidence.

Given our most lucrative resource is the people through federal transfer payments, I was surprised to see that this document did not mention immigration anywhere, especially given our need for skilled workers. The NWT needs to make our immigration rules competitive with other Canadian jurisdictions. Of course, we need to continue to build our own workforce and ensuring they are training and retraining skilled workers is key. But there is a lack of tutoring and educational resources for people who need support to pass the trades entrance exam, and solving this is not a deliverable in this document either.

In regards to partnerships -- sorry. Lastly, the plan speaks to partnerships with the -- I'm tripping over my words, Mr. Chair, at the end of a very long week.

Lastly, I wanted to speak to partnerships. Partnerships with Indigenous governments and organizations, community governments, and the non-for-profit and charitable sector. We've also heard this from my colleagues here today. During a crisis or a pandemic is when we place the most need on NGOs. Now is that time. The last year and bit has been that time. So this government does not need an advisory table to strengthen partnerships; it just needs to do it. NGOs want more money in block funding for frontline direct impact funning and they want less administrative burden to access those funds.

With that, Mr. Chair, thank you for -- I know it was a long week and I know I'm at the end of that long week. So, thank you to my colleagues for listening to me and I'd like to thank Cabinet for the time they have put in to this and for coming to our side of the House for some feedback.

I'd also like to acknowledge and thank the Premier for saying that this is a living document. But for it to be a living document, it needs a feedback loop from the people of the Northwest Territories. Thank you.